Dismal 2006 draft doused future hopes for Calgary Flames

By Jason Menard
Photo: While Leland Irving still remains with the Flames organization, he was expected to eventually share the goaltending duties with Miikka Kiprusoff. Now in his third professional season, Irving has yet to make an NHL start. (photo courtesy of www.whl.ca)

The Calgary Flames came into the 2006 draft looking to augment their offense. They accomplished their immediate goal with a draft-day trade for Alex Tanguay (in his first go-around with the club), and then proceeded to select six forwards with their eight picks.

But after riding Miikka Kiprusoff for a whopping 74 games (following his one-year sojourn in the Swedish Elite League), the club used their first pick of the draft to obtain the player they hoped would be able to spell their Finnish netminder — and possibly replace him long-term.

On the day of the draft the Calgary Flames obtained Tanguay in return for Jordan Leopold, their second-round selection (59th in the draft), and a conditional draft pick. Fortunately, they got something out of that trade, because the remainder of their day’s work has been extremely underwhelming.

Although the club selected eight players, to date none have played an NHL game — including that goalie of the future. The top three picks remain prospects — but in name only — as all three are long shots to ever crack the Flames’ roster.

Leland Irving, G, Everett (WHL) – 1st round, 26th overall
NHL Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Irving was a highly touted netminder when the Flames selected him to serve as the future backup — and hopefully eventual replacement — for their workhorse Miikka Kirpusoff. He went on to shine for Canada in the World Junior Championship and looked poised to make a steady climb towards the NHL ranks.

Five years later, Irving’s career seems to be going the wrong way, hitting the low point last year with an eight-game stint in the ECHL with Victoria Salmon Kings. This year, he’s back in Abbotsford and has compiled an 18-15-2 record in 39 games. He’s posted a 2.38 GAA (the second-best of his career) and a .908 save percentage.

He remains in the system, but if he was ever going to be the goalie of the future, he would have at least suited up as a backup by now. Time and opportunities alike are running out for Irving.

John Armstrong
, C, Plymouth (OHL) – 3rd round, 87th overall
NHL Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played 0

Two season ago, Armstrong suffered a shoulder injury that cut short his 2008-09 campaign with the AHL Quad City Flames. Last year, a change of venue — the Abbotsford Heat were the AHL affiliate — didn’t change Armstrong’s fate and he appeared in only 14 games.

This year, he’s hoping to get back on track and has participated in 46 games to date, scoring five goals and 12 points. He’s also shown a willingness to play the physical game, racking up 69 penalty minutes so far.

At 6’2, 200 pounds, Armstrong has the size and temperament to be a solid third-play center for the Flames, but he’s running out of time and opportunity within the organization.

Aaron Marvin
, F, Warroad (USHW) – 3rd round, 89th overall
NHL Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Marvin’s a senior with St. Cloud State of the WCHA, but increased seniority and opportunity has not translated into increased production.

Since a superlative senior season that saw him score 10 goals and 27 points in 38 games, he dropped to five goals and 16 points in 39 games, and has fallen even farther off pace this year — four goals and five assists in 23 games.

To date, Marvin’s best known for his three-game suspension that came from a hit that gave then-Wisconsin Badger Blake Geoffrion (NAS) a concussion. He remains a part of the Flames’ system and will likely be assigned to the club’s ECHL affiliate next year. Any appearance for Marvin in a Flames’ uniform will likely be years in the offering.

Hugo Carpentier
, C, Rouyn Noranda (QMJHL) – 4th round, 118th overall
NHL Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Carpentier has bounced back and forth between the AHL and ECHL over the past three seasons — although with Calgary’s ever-changing minor-league affiliations, he’s been able to see a fair bit of the U.S. since his final season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

Currently playing with the Utah Grizzlies, Carpentier is a likely prospect in name only at this point of his career. Unable to stay in the AHL with any consistency (17, 35, and nine games over the past three seasons, respectively), the Hull, QC native has yet to show the development that would enable Calgary to feel comfortable keeping the 6’1 center in the system long-term.

He remains in the Flames system, but will likely need a change of scenery.

Juuso Puustinen
, RW, Kalpa Jr. (Finland) – 5th round, 149th overall
NHL Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

At this point of the draft, NHL franchises are looking for long-term projects or hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Unfortunately for the Flames, the chance they took with the 6’1 Finn doesn’t appear that it will pay off.

Although Puustinen is enjoying a solid season with HPK Hameenlinna of Finland‘s SM-liga, scoring 21 goals and adding 11 assists to date in 43 games, it doesn’t appear that the Kuopio-born forward will ever return to this side of the Atlantic to continue his career.

Jordan Fulton , C, Breck School (USHSW) — 6th round, 179th overall
NHL Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Fulton is in his first full professional season following four years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Currently not part of the Flames’ 50-contract limit, he’s bounced around the ECHL in his inaugural season, moving from the Kalamazoo Wings to the Stockton Thunder.

In 27 games with Kalamazoo, he had 15 points. However, his production has tailed off with the Thunder to the point where he has a goal and two assists in 11 games. He has shown a willingness to play the physical game — something that he displayed in all four of his collegiate seasons.

participated in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ training camp this summer, but was unable to stick with the AHL franchise.

Devin DiDiomete
, LW, Sudbury (OHL) – 7th round, 187th overall
NHL Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Stratford, ON native is still an NHL prospect — just not for the Flames. Prior to concluding his OHL career, the Flames did not pick up his rights. He was then signed in 2008 by the New York Rangers and has spent the majority of his time with the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford (now the Connecticut Whale).

At only 5’11 and 200 pounds, DiDiomete wouldn’t seem to be the enforcer type, but that’s exactly what’s going to get the 22-year-old to the next level — if he ever arrives. He’s broken the 200-PIM plateau in each of his past five seasons (two with Sudbury, one with Sarnia, and his previous two with Hartford — although last year he did spend 15 games in the ECHL, where he averaged over eight penalty minutes per game).

With little offensive talent and a diminishing tolerance for one-dimensional goons in the NHL, DiDiomete’s long-term prospects look dim.

Per Jonsson, F, Farjestad Jr. (Sweden) – 7th round, 209th overall
NHL Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Flames’ final pick is no longer with the organization and, in fact, has spent the intervening years bouncing from team to team and league to league in Europe.

Currently toiling with Esbjerg in Denmark, Jonsson started last year with Farjestad of the Elitserien, before being loaned out to TPS of the Finnish SM-liga and then Orebro, in the Allsvenskan.

His best season came in 2007-08, with Skare BK of the Swedish first division. In 38 games that year, he scored three goals and added 15 assists to go with 102 PIMs. However, he’s had trouble adjusting to any of Europe’s top-level leagues. He’s yet to score in 56 games in the Elitserien or seven games with the SM-liga.

Flames fans interested in seeing Jonsson will have to be content catching Danish games on satellite.